Playback: Viggo Mortensen on ‘Captain Fantastic’ and the Secret to Longevity

Kristopher Tapley
Variety

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast.

On this week’s show, Jenelle Riley and I preview Variety‘s upcoming Actors on Actors showcase, which was produced over the weekend in Los Angeles. We also take stock of contenders like “Fences” and “Hidden Figures” a year after the Academy’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

Later (20:16) I’m talking to “Captain Fantastic” star Viggo Mortensen, who some have said was born to play the role of a Bohemian patriarch in Matt Ross’ film. Mortensen sees it more like the culmination of his accumulated assets after 30 years in this business. Stretching back to Peter Weir’s “Witness,” Mortensen has been a mainstay, and that consistency can be under-appreciated.

For more, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” below. Check back next week when I’ll be talking to “Jackie” star Natalie Portman and producer Darren Aronofsky. And be sure to subscribe!

“I think you have to be lucky,” Mortensen says of the secret to longevity as an actor. “You have to get opportunities but you also have to be ready for those opportunities. You have to work and you have to be prepared, not only so you can take advantage of a good role if it comes along, or a good opportunity, but to even recognize that it’s a good opportunity, to pay attention, watch movies, study the way people do things.”

Mortensen speaks affectionately about the team that put the film together, from writer/director Matt Ross to every element of the crew. It was a warm experience for him, where it wasn’t just a job for everyone involved but a true passion project.

“It always helps as an actor if, not only the cast, but the crew is really into the story,” Mortensen says. “Everybody that was working on this movie, whether we were in the woods of Washington state or on the road between Washington state and New Mexico or in the southern heat of New Mexico, all of these people were passionate about the story. They were really glad they were a part of the team … It helps you not feel silly making believe in front of them.”

Viggo Mortensen photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Also, this particular conversation was recorded before the Nov. 8 Presidential election, so of course we got into the way this particular cycle has been handled by the media. Mortensen had more than a few things to say about that issue.

“Mainstream media [performed] extremely poorly,” the actor says. “I think they’ve accepted that this should be just a personality fight, which is not unusual. It’s the norm, unfortunately. That just because Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or anybody else that would have actually provided provocative questions and answers about issues that are not discussed in any profound way in the three debates that we’ve seen, which have been basically a sham… They’re not put to the test and the media basically goes along with that.”

Also a speed round with the actor, who has worked with legends. What has he taken away from filmmakers like Sean Penn, Brian De Palma, Tony Scott, Kevin Spacey, Gus Van Sant and David Cronenberg.

Hear about all that and more via the streaming link above.

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